Olympic runner Mo Farah criticises Barking and Dagenham over plans to leave London Youth Games
Double gold-winning athlete Mo Farah and other Olympic champions wrote to Barking and Dagenham Council urging them not to drop out of London-wide youth games that have produced a string of international sports stars, it has emerged.
The Olympic runner, along with judo silver medal winner Gemma Gibbons and Paralympian wheelchair athlete David Weir, were among the sports personalities who pleaded with Barking and Dagenham Council to rethink a decision to leave the London Youth Games this year, warning to do so would be a “mistake for the young people of Barking and Dagenham”.
Athletics star Christine Ohuruogu, weightlifter Zoe Smith, football player Rachel Yankey, skiing star Chemmy Alcott, javelin champ Steve Backley, rower Mark Hunter and rugby player Maggie Alphonsi also put their names to the letter.
The games, which every London borough participate in, have previously coached athletes who went on to scoop 14 medals at the 2012 Olympics.
They wrote to council leader Cllr Liam Smith in October, before the Olympic borough vowed to leave the Youth Games to stage its own “community games” expected to draw 400 sportsmen and women in Dagenham this June.
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Mo, Gemma and eight other sports stars who previously took part in the capital’s games, wrote: “The London Youth Games is the ideal outlet for young people wanting to become involved with sport.
“With a record 100,000 young Londoners having taken part in the 2012 London Youth Games in pathway events and competitions, the event is now the biggest and best it has ever been.
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“To remove this opportunity would, we believe, be a mistake for the young people of Barking and Dagenham.”
The games helped to propel the careers of a host of sportsmen and women including Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins, footballers Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand and running legend Linford Christie.
Barking and Dagenham Council told the Post last month it had decided to pull out of the event because of the “high cost”.
Organisers said the entrance fee had dropped to �7,200 but the council says the total cost to take part would be �27,000.
Sportsmen and women of all abilities are expected to take part in the two-day Barking and Dagenham Community Games at Mayesbrook Park in Dagenham, which was an official Olympic training venue during the London Olympics.
A council spokesman told the Post last month: “The council took the decision to pull out of the London Youth Games in October, following discussions with the organisers.
“This was because of the high cost of taking part. We believe there are much better ways of getting more young people in Barking and Dagenham involved in sport and physical activity.
“We are proud of our role as an Olympic host borough and the Community Games will be an ideal opportunity for people to use the world-class facilities in Mayesbrook Park.”